VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers management has been keeping close tabs on Mikhail Vorobyev’s press box seat.
They’ll always make sure it never gets too warm.
After gaining a bird’s-eye view the past three games, the 21-year-old rookie will likely return to the ice Thursday, stepping into the pressure cooker of one of the toughest arenas in the NHL when the Flyers face the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Head coach Dave Hakstol made it clear there’s no perfect scenario of easing a first-year player back into the lineup.
“If you started looking at a soft spot in the schedule, you’d never put anyone in the lineup,” Hakstol said Wednesday. “Plain and simple. Find a soft spot in the schedule, there isn’t one. I want to get Mish back in. I think he’s going to go back in and get his opportunity, and if he goes back in, he’ll be back in the middle.”
Vorobyev is expected to center the Flyers' third line, where he started the season, but this time with Wayne Simmonds to his right and likely Jordan Weal on the left side. Much was expected out of Vorobyev when he made the Flyers straight out of training camp, but after taking the training wheels off it’s been a rough ride during his first month in the NHL.
“I think what he’s going through right now is fairly normal,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “He played two really good games, and then three out of four hasn’t been very good. It’s not good enough. An established player, you live with that because you know what he can do. Misha has to show us he can do it.”
Starting the season with points in his first two games, Vorobyev hit a rough patch. Not only did he fail to register a point, he didn’t manage a single shot on net in four straight games. He’s also been schooled on faceoffs with a percentage of 30.3.
It’s all a sharp contrast from September, when Vorobyev clearly beat out Weal and other contenders in the preseason for the third-line center job, but it’s a role that requires any player to shift into that extra gear once the regular season rolls around. At times, Vorobyev appears to be stuck in neutral.
“Higher level of consistent effort in all three zones,” Hakstol said when he asked what he needs to see. “More tenacity on pucks. Little bit quicker play defensively without the puck. That needs to happen now.”
One area working in Vorobyev’s favor: He doesn’t know how painful it’s been to play in Boston, where the Flyers are 1-6-2 in their last nine games at TD Garden. At some point, the Flyers' rookie will be confronted with a less-than-ideal matchup against the Bruins' skilled forwards. Without Vorobyev, Hakstol believes the Flyers have tightened up defensively.
“First four games we had holes everywhere. We were giving up way too much,” Hakstol said. “Our structure, our tenacity has been pretty good.”
We’ll see if Mikhail Vorobyev can do his part and keep it trending in the right direction.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.